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Entries in #anniversaries (1)


One More for the Road

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Robert Frost's death, links to a few of his best-known works that you may not have read in years:

"The Road Not Taken," 1922

"After Apple Picking," 1915

"Mending Wall," 1915

The NPR story that drew this anniversary to my attention begins with the line "Next, we'll recall a poet of the modern era who didn't seem modern at all." I was listening to this piece on my headphones while making soup, and I immediately exclaimed, "Frost!" 

My husband, watching a basketball game in the other room, was a little confused, especially as it was above freezing today.

But in all seriousness, during my junior year of college I took a modern poetry survey course that began with Frost, whom I knew as I knew of other canonical poets. But there was so much I'd never even considered--that the paths in "The Road Not Taken" actually look pretty damn similar, if you examine the text closely. Might it be an old man justifying his choices to himself? The oft-seriously-quoted "good fences make good neighbors" line from "Mending Wall" is very clearly not intended to be read literally. Why people don't quote the opening lines more often is beyond me:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.


Frost's poems begin so simply, follow what we all assume is the intended, rhyming and rhythmic, trajectory of poetry that it is all too easy to simply give them a surface-level read. Many, lulled perhaps by the mastery of the aural qualities and the easily-snipped-out lines, do. But they are even more beautiful, and subversive, when you look just a little bit closer. And Frost himself, as you will hear if you listen to the Morning Edition NPR story, valued his privacy in his personal life as well.

(All of this--the deceptively straight-forward statements, the quiet, deep calm, the fondness for rural northern settings--makes me suspect that he must go over well with the Swedes.)

This time around, "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" resonates with me most, for reasons that are probably both obvious and well-illustrated by this blog of late. In particular, I find myself reciting the last stanza, over and over. So here it is, in honor of the master:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,  
And miles to go before I sleep.